DTC Ad Spending Expected to Top $2B

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Spending on direct-to-consumer ads for prescription drugs is on a record-breaking pace to top $2 billion this year, according to a report from marketing consultants Scott-Levin, Newtown, PA.

Spending on DTC ads by pharmaceutical companies totaled $946 million in the first four months of this year, up from $597 million during the same period last year, the firm reported this month. Driving the 58 percent increase in DTC expenditures was the arrival of six brand-new campaigns that did not exist in the first four months of 1999, Scott-Levin said in the report.

If the pace continues, overall DTC spending for pharmaceutical promotions will surpass last year's record of $1.9 billion, said Keith Mandia, senior marketing analyst at Scott-Levin.

"But how far past, we don't know," Mandia said.

Pharmaceutical giant Merck, Readington, NJ, had the largest DTC campaign for a single product in the period, spending $67 million promoting its Vioxx COX-2 inhibitor, an arthritis medication. There was no consumer campaign for the drug in the period last year.

Schering-Plough, which led the first four months of 1999 with its $54.7 million campaign for the Claritan antihistamine, rang up just $34.1 million in the period this year, a 37.7 percent reduction. Nevertheless, spending on DTC ads to promote Claritan placed third on the top-10 list of expenditures, Scott-Levin reported.

Company spokesman Bill O'Donnell said he could not confirm Scott-Levin's numbers or talk specifically about Schering-Plough's marketing strategy. But he said the company uses DTC ads because they are an effective way to meet consumer demand for information about new medicines.

"We believe a well-informed patient is more apt to obtain appropriate and effective treatments," O'Donnell said.

Other top spenders on DTC ads cited in the study included:

• AstraZeneca, Wilmington, DE, which spent $41.9 million promoting the Prilosec ulcer treatment, second overall and up from $21.8 million last year.

• Pfizer, New York, which spent $31.4 million on a new DTC campaign to promote the Celebrex arthritis treatment.

• Roche, Nutley, NJ, which spent $31.2 million on its campaign for the Xenical fat-blocking medication.

Also in the study, Scott-Levin surveyed 4,000 consumers and 3,000 physicians and asked them which DTC campaigns they best remembered. Nearly 40 percent of the physicians and 19.5 percent of the consumers mentioned Viagra. Claritan followed second with 34.4 percent of physicians and 15.8 percent of consumers able to recall ads for the drug.

Pfizer, which makes Viagra, spent $24 million on DTC promotions for the drug during the first four months of 2000, Mandia said. The company spent $15 million in the same period last year.

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